Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Time for the Social Sector to Get Social

Last week at Dreamforce 2011, Mark Benioff, CEO of, welcomed me and the 45,000 other attendees to “The Social Enterprise.” It is a term has recently trademarked. While it is not the Social Enterprise that we nonprofits think of, it is a change I think we need to pay attention to.

But first, what was a nonprofit consultant from a small town in Michigan doing at the largest technology conference in the world? I have been helping NorthSky adapt the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Nonprofit Edition to manage contact information and project data in one place and digitally streamline workflows and business processes. Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that is 100% open and cloud- based, meaning there is no software/hardware to install or maintain updates on, and it can easily integrate with other products to customize its functionality. The foundation donates the first 10 user licenses to 501c(3) nonprofits as a part of their commitment to donate 1% of all products, equity and employee time to charity. Nearly 12,000 nonprofits currently use Salesforce including United Way, the Red Cross and Goodwill.

While I learned a lot at Dreamforce about the nuts and bolts of Salesforce, what hasn’t left me since I got back is a tremendous new enthusiasm for the potential of social media platforms, like Salesforce’s new Chatter, to change our work as the social sector.The Social Enterprise that Mark Benioff has started talking about are businesses that are beginning to harness social media to do business in a whole new way, to collaborate more effectively with colleagues and customers. This shift has been enabled by the creation of social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Salesforce’s Chatter, and the move from the “PC Era” to mobile, cloud-based technology.

Why does the social sector need to pay attention to these changes and claim space in this movement? Social media and the cloud are helping us to connect with each other and with information more rapidly than ever before, changing the very way we build, maintain, understand and use relationships. And relationships are the key to our ability to achieve our social missions. Social media will change each and every one of our relationships – our relationships with each other, our supporters, and our clients – we need to get in the game to make this work to our advantage.

The video opening Dreamforce this year clearly set the tone that new social platforms are not just the standard decennial change in technology, but are actually creating a social revolution. Perhaps what made this most clear were the pictures from the Arab Spring of protestors with signs and graffiti that thanked Facebook for their ability to organize and take down regimes.

While the video went on to show how this new social platform could do things for business like push coupons to customers standing right outside a store, I found myself stuck on one question that seemed to have much more weight than good customer service,

What does this social revolution mean for the Social Sector?

Stay tuned to next week’s blog as Freya Bradford, NorthSky Consultant, continues to ponder this big question.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Freya.. yes, this new social media will and can change the world. We're seeing it all over the world now. Even in African countries where smart phones are being used to communicate (since the telephone infrastructure is so horrible, they've leapt forward with cell phones).

    In India, a small movement to rid government of corruption with a single person fasting until demands were met, turned into an international campaign...all on its own. It's revolutionary and very exciting.